Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Make It Easy and Ergogenics - Caffeine, Performance, and Cortisol

Make It Easy
Here is the tip of the day based on a conversation I had with Frankie Faires awhile back.

Your goal in the gym is to make what you are doing look easy.

Your goal is NOT to make tons of noise, grunt, tighten your neck and have a few veins burst in your head. If that happens as a by product on occasion, I will let ya slide; but that is NOT the intended goal.

Watch elite athletes. Do they make it look hard or easy?
If they make it look easy, why are YOU making it look hard?

How do you make it look easy?
1) It is easy (so get stronger or more coordinated or both)

2) Practice like it is easy.

Now, this does NOT mean bad form. Perfect form! Does grinding your teeth so hard that your eyes almost close help you lift more? Or is this a learned response from doing many reps that way? I would go with the latter.

Here is a great deadlift video. Notice the crap ton of weight on the bar, notice the focus, but does he make it look easy or hard? For those that are bad at math, it is 937 lbs!

Blog update on Nerve Flossing

I did a post awhile back discussing how nerve flossing can increase range of motion, strength and ultimately performance (see below)

Nerve Flossing Z Health Style: I Can Rotate My Neck!

Todd at Better Movement has a whole 3 part series on it that is very well done. Check it out below
Nerve Flossing part 3

On to the studies!
2 awesome studies below along with my comemnts.

Check out my comments below each one

Effect of caffeine on the neuromuscular system - potential as an ergogenic aid.

Tarnopolsky MA. Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON L8N3Z5, Canada(e-mail:

The ergogenic effect of caffeine on endurance exercise performance is multifactorial; however, there is evidence for an effect on both the central nervous system and the excitation-contraction coupling of skeletal muscle. The increase in exercise performance seen following intracerebroventrical caffeine injection in rats provides strong evidence for a central ergogenic effect. The central ergogenic effect is not likely related to the ability of caffeine to promote wakefulness, but could be due to an increase in the pain and effort perception threshold. There is no evidence that caffeine alters peripheral nerve conduction velocity or neuromuscular transmission, and 1 study showed that motor unit synchronization was not altered by caffeine. Studies have also shown that caffeine can have a direct effect on skeletal muscle that could be ergogenic.

For example, patients with high cervical spinal cord lesions showed improvements in stimulated contractile force during cycling, in spite of the fact that they have no peripheral pain input and no sympathetic nervous system response. Two studies have found a potentiation of force production during submaximal stimulation intensities, and 1 found that the M-wave amplitude was not altered by caffeine. Together, these studies suggest that caffeine can enhance contractile force during submaximal contractions by potentiating calcium release from the ryanodine receptor, not by altering sarcoplasmic excitability. Furthermore, the potentiation of force during submaximal electrical stimulation is identical in habitual and nonhabitual caffeine consumers.

Conclusion: In summary, the ergogenic effects of caffeine during endurance activity are mediated partly by enhanced contractile force and partly by a reduction in perceived exertion, possibly though a blunting of effort and (or) pain.

My Notes:
Endurance training at a high level is all about "pain management". While I believe that pain is very ergolytic (pain decreases performance), caffeine use may be a way to enhance endurance performance.

Like all things, if you do decide to try it out, pure anhydrous caffeine (No Doze) is the best way to go since you want to standardize the caffeine amount. Make sure you do in practice a few times and NOT before a big race!! Practice makes perfect.

Related posts
Research Update: December: Ergogenics-Caffeine and Asprin

Next study!

Caffeine and carbohydrate supplementation during exercise when in negative energy balance: effects on performance, metabolism, and salivary cortisol.

Slivka D, Hailes W, Cuddy J, Ruby B. Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism (WPEM), Department of Health and Human Performance, The University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.

The ingestion of carbohydrate (+CHO) and caffeine (+CAF) during exercise is a commonly used ergogenic practice. Investigations are typically conducted with subjects who are in a rested state after an overnight fast. However, this state of positive energy balance is not achieved during many work and exercise circumstances. The aim of this study was to evaluate the substrate use and performance effects of caffeine and carbohydrate consumed alone and in combination while participants were in negative energy balance.

Male participants (n = 9; 23 +/- 3 years; 74.1 +/- 10.6 kg) completed 4 trials in random order: -CAF/-CHO, -CAF/+CHO, +CAF/-CHO, and +CAF/+CHO. Diet and exercise were prescribed for 2 days before each trial to ensure negative energy balance. For each trial, before and after 2 h of cycling at 50% of maximal watts, a saliva sample and a muscle biopsy (vastus lateralis) were obtained. A simulated 20 km time trial was then performed.

The respiratory exchange ratio was higher (p <> 0.05), or any of the other trials. When co-ingested with carbohydrate, caffeine increased fat use and decreased nonmuscle glycogen carbohydrate use over carbohydrate alone when participants are in negative energy balance.

Conclusion: When co-ingested with carbohydrate, caffeine increased fat use and decreased nonmuscle glycogen carbohydrate use over carbohydrate alone when participants are in negative energy balance; However, caffeine had no effect on the 20 km cycling time trial performance.

My Notes:

The use of burning more fat for fuel is referred to as the "Randle effect" The more technical definition is the inhibition of the oxidation of glucose by an excess of fatty acids. It appears that this study would confirm that caffeine does increase the use of fatty acids as fuel, but I am not convinced yet. If this is true, why was it not show in the caffeine but no carbs group? They pulled salivary cortisol levels, but did not report them in the abstract? Hmmmm.

See this related post

Will Caffeine Help Me Loose Fat? New Research

If anyone wants more info on this one, drop me a note in the comments section and I may have to do some further investigation. Or if you have already done that, I really want to hear from you.

Rock on

Mike T Nelson